LUCIA COMNES – Have We Met Before? (Delfina Records DR393-LC20)

Have We Met Before?Following on from her collaborative album with John Palmer as Open Road, Comnes reverts to solo mode for Have We Met Before?, a countrified collection of self-penned matter recorded in her adopted home of Italy. Featuring shaker, violin and keys, it opens with ‘Soul On A Journey’, a soft, midtempo introspective number about redefining your identity in more positive terms, a healing mantra to keep you steady on your path (“I’m not here to be sorry, I’m not here to be sad/I came here to realize the dreams I’ve always had”), followed. in turn, by the upbeat full band sound and electric guitar break of ‘You Lift Me Up’, one of three with co-producer Jeffrey Hamer taking a co-write credit, which, as the title suggests, is about a mutual support system (“If you’re carrying a heavy load/I’ll be your friend just wanna let you know/I meant to call you up so many times/And now I need somebody on the line…you lift me up to higher ground”). Things then revert to a dreamier, languid mood for the sultry ‘Stay In The Feeling’ with Luca Giovacchini’s delicate guitar, organ and sparse drum and bass and its invitation to unwind.

The first of two covers arrives with the drums leading into her appealing vocally laid back take on Tom Waits’s ‘Hold On’, the other being the album closer, ‘Senza Fine’, a 60s love song hit for Gino Paoli , electric guitar and background synth conjuring lush feel with Comnes singing in Italian.

The infectious title track, a steady strummed duet with Hamer (who co-wrote it in the studio) and featuring strings and dobro, imagines a conversation between a couple who were lovers in their youth and the need to come to terms with  past relationships and the feelings that bubble up when they reconnect (“So you’re married now, well I’m glad you found/Someone to keep your house when you’re out of town/Is she sweet and kind, does he ease your mind’/Are you better off now than back when you were mine?).

It’s fittingly at its most country for the Johnny Cash chug of ‘The Last Cowboy’ with its upright bass, a number born out of walking away from a relationship she believed was ‘the one’ (“He was so broken when we met/I thought he could use a friend/The problem saving someone else/You’d be better off saving yourself …Our time is passed, there’s no sand left in the glass/No laughter left here anymore”) and the resolve that “they’ll be no more cowboys/No big hats, no dry and dusty roads/I ain’t going back”.

There’s another collapsed relationship (“First the silence, it turns to violence/Words fly like arrows so sharp that they cut”) in the spare and moody ‘How Can You Just Leave Me Like This?’ with its dissonant chords and brooding, echoey electric guitar, channelling Alanis Morrisette’s emotional intensity in a cry of anger at being betrayed (“I trusted you, babe, down to the bone/ Was I just your fix, one of your cheap tricks/And now it’s my fault that I’m here on my own?”).

Of course, if you can’t rely on your man, you can always rely on your wardrobe. A full band number with violin and distorted electric guitar, the soulful (think Christine Perfect’s ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’) ‘Black Lace’ is the narrator’s homage to the silk dress that soothes the pain of being let down in love.

Then the mood switches again for the goodtime ‘With Me You Won’t Win Twice’ with its stomping rockabilly chug, 50s guitar sound and upright bass. originally written for her newborn nephew but reworked a la Nancy Sinatra as a number about being in a relationship with a man who tends to be more faithful to his desire for freedom than his desire for his lover as she sings “Great men rise in battle /Gamblers roll the dice/You might be feeling lucky/But with me you won’t win twice”. Which, another duet with Hamer, leaves ‘I Wish That You’d Be Holding Me Tonight’, a poignantly lovely and gently lullabying song of loss and yearning (“When the day is done and all the stars are bright/And I listen to the people passing by/Of all the things that comfort me/My favorite is a memory/And I wonder where you are tonight”) and, proving the bridge, an ethereal choir featuring the voice of English opera singer, Olympia Hetherington. If you’ve not met Comnes before, this is a perfect time to make her acquaintance.

Mike Davies

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‘Black Lace’ – live: